A Tale of Two Movies

So, Prometheus.

Yes. That was a thing that happened.

Should you go see it if you haven’t already? Yes, most definitely.

Did I like it? That’s… an altogether more complicated question.

Prometheus is a difficult movie to properly parse. Some of this is deliberate on the film’s part. Some of it… isn’t. I don’t want to delve too deeply into spoiler territory this time, because I legitimately want people to go see it and experience it for themselves firsthand. I will say that it’s got a lot of very intriguing ideas floating around. Some fairly heavy Freudian/Nietzschian stuff about parenthood and godhood and humanity and life and destiny and other sundry trip-your-balls-off chicanery. It also, yes, is framed as a prequel to the Alien films, and contains definite continuity nods to those movies.  Beyond that it’s also completely gorgeous. I only saw it in 2D and my jaw was pretty floored as it was. Seen in its intended dimensions and aspect ratio and I can only imagine the splendor it might evoke, and given the epic nature of the film, it’s appropriate.

So all that being said, why do I equivocate? Well, at the end of the day as ambitious and worthy as the project is I can’t one-hundred percent say that it came off. It crosses the finish line without completely flying apart, but it’s got a lot of moving pieces and frankly some of the gears grind a bit. There are some definite plot holes that exist, and you’ll probably come out of the theater with at least a few more questions than answers. A large part of the reason for this is that Prometheus is ultimately not really a single film, but rather two.

There are two distinct narratives that Prometheus is trying to weave simultaneously, and it’s the dissonance between these that creates a good number of its problems. On the one hand, Prometheus is trying to be a sweeping, thought provoking, philosophical sci-fi thriller. On the other, it’s also trying to be an Alien prequel. The goal of the former film is to create questions for the audience, something they can chew on and debate. The purpose of the latter film is to answer questions, to fill in the gaps in a mythology. The two endeavors end up being mutually exclusive. In trying to do both it accomplishes neither to satisfaction.

Now, what does this mean for the movie? As much I have to say the film is rather compromised, I can’t say with any conviction that it’s “bad.” Prometheus, for all its faults, still somehow manages to be something I want my friends to see. It’s naked ambition and sincerity of vision, if not necessarily it’s coherency, win it enough points for a passing grade. Moreover, while the plot holes I mentioned earlier are frustrating they do serve one particularly useful purpose for the film. They get people talking about it. The more people shoot theories back and forth and debate those very narrative flaws the more reputation the movie gains by word of mouth. Regardless of any other considerations, this is one we’ll be talking about for a while…

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